Must doctors disclose their fees before treatment?
The bioethical principles of patient autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice or fairness require doctors to disclose their fees before treating patients. The provisions regarding disclosures about fees in the Health Professions Act and National Health Act are in conflict. Those in the National Health Act are likely to be applied by the courts to impose a legal duty on healthcare practitioners to disclose their fees before treating patients. This is because the National Health Act is consistent with the access to healthcare provision in the Constitution, as the nature of the access is often determined by the patient’s ability to afford the treatment. Given the unequal bargaining power between doctors and patients, very few patients may ask doctors what their fees are before being treated. It is feasible for doctors to provide such information, or an estimate, and ethically and legally they have a duty to do so.
David Jan McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
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Date published: 2015-01-02
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